The Minecraft Experiment, final entry: Cake or Death

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Tom Francis at

Minecraft Diary 31 - Night Wait

When I first started playing Minecraft a few months ago, I played with a rule: if I die, I have to delete the entire world. After a lot of false starts and a lot of lost worlds, I managed to build a portal to hell and get back alive. Now I'm home, and the experiment is about to end - all that's left is to die.

The diary starts here, and this is the final entry.

Playing this way has been an interesting look at how stakes change the way you feel in a game, and how you play. Since I started, Minecraft creator Notch has said this will actually be a formal mode in the game eventually, one that forcibly deletes your world on death.

I found that each death gave me a new phobia, something I'd be disproportionately terrified of in every subsequent life. By the tenth, I'm so afraid of everything that I've actually become pretty safe - that's why it'll be my last life in this experiment.

That said, I'm currently looking through my inventory and I've just heard a Creeper hissing behind me.

< Day 30

 

World 10, deaths 9, part 1

Yes, the hissing was a Creeper. Yes, it exploded. Yes, in the face. Yes, all my stuff.

The blast took out my storage chest, with all my valuables in it. That doesn't destroy them, though, just sends them flying. It only knocked a few hearts off my health, thanks to my shiny new armour, but I have another concern: don't items disappear after a while? There are dozens here and my inventory is already full - how long do I have to save all this?

I scramble around in the wreckage trying to craft a new crate. Every time I move something around, a new useless object automatically pops into the empty slot because I'm standing on it. Eventually I manage to get enough wood to slap together a chest and cram fistfuls of ham, string, feathers and gold into it. Then, inexplicably, I set fire to myself.

For some reason I've always kept a little puddle of lava in the corner of my base here, and for the first time I've accidentally stepped in it. More frantic rummaging: I have a bucket of water in here somewhere, and I would really like to not be on fire anymore.

I finally find it in the back of the chest, flood my own home and extinguish the flames with a hiss. I am alive.

Now I have the same difficult decision I face every time I come home: should I bake a cake, or kill myself?

World 10, deaths 9, part 2

The cake argument is persuasive: Notch added the recipe to the game to celebrate winning the IndieDB Indie of the Year awards. I went to hell and found my way home - that's a much bigger deal. And it's a sort of enticing long-term quest: it takes wheat, milk, eggs and sugar, each of which is somewhat tricky to come by.

On the other hand, there's the tempting prospect of death. The experiment is over, but I can't just leave - it has to end with me dying and finally deleting this last, huge world that's been my home for so long. I don't really want to meander around while I wait for something to catch me out, I want to die on my own terms. I'm thinking of digging a pit down to the base of the world, then building a tower all the way to the top of the sky (there is one), and jumping off one into the other.

Or I could do both. I have cane to make sugar, I just found an egg, and I have buckets to milk cows with, but the wheat will take days to grow. This pit, and the tower, will take a day to build. I can start growing wheat now, work on my deathtrap while it matures, then bake a delicious treat and take my own life on the same day.

This is the plan:

  • Plant wheat now.
  • Prepare the other ingredients.
  • Dig a pit to the bottom of the world from directly beneath my beacon, and a tower from the top of the beacon to the top of the world.
  • Harvest the wheat.
  • Bake the cake.
  • Climb the tower.
  • Pour lava on my own feet to set myself on fire.
  • Throw myself off the tower.
  • Commence eating cake mid-air, restoring health as the flames burn it away, and making sure I'll survive long enough to be killed by the tremendous impact of hitting the hardest possible ground from the highest possible height.

It'll be brilliant.

Farming wheat turns out to be much harder than killing yourself. I had to do research. You've got to hoe the land, then irrigate it by pouring buckets of water into channels around the soil. Then you plant the seeds, but you've got to do so without trampling on any of the hoed land or planted seeds, or leaving any hoed land unirrigated for too long. After a lot of faffing and trampling and wasted wheat, I finally got them all planted. Now for the most exciting part of this adventure: watching wheat grow.

OK, I'll just let the wheat get on with it.

I block off the water beneath my beacon and dig carefully down through the dry land. It takes most of a day before I hit Adminium, the indescructable stuff at the base of the world. When I do, I decide I'd rather break my legs on Obsidian - the stuff just has more sentimental value to me. I forge a block from lava and water, directly below the beacon, then climb back up.

The wheat is not done. Maybe it takes a whole season, like real farming. According to the wiki bonemeal can accelerate the rate at which it grows, but like an idiot I threw all my bones away a few miles back. The next morning, though, I find one among the trees - probably from a skeleton who burned to death in the morning sun. His loss is my chemical farming catalyst: I grind his bones and throw the dust at three stalks of wheat, instantly turning them into health bundles ready to be made into a delicious cake. This makes perfect sense.

The cake, once I've made it by throwing all the component parts into a wooden box with a saw drawn on the side, is vast and delicious-looking. I have everything I need. I dump everything I don't, then set about building the tower.

The only tricky part of this is getting above my beacon and then drilling a hole through it from the top - it's covered in fast-flowing water, so I have to drop blocks of sand onto it to make a stable platform first. The tower I build isn't directly above the pit, it's one square back so that I can step off, fall the height of the sky and plummet straight into the tiny vertical shaft into the ground. On fire, eating cake.

Once the tower's done, it's the middle of the night. I don't want to die in the dark, so I just stand gormlessly at the top of the world waiting for the sun to rise. It's actually rather nice - as long as you don't move, this is one of the few completely safe places in the world. I can see Creepers hopping around in the forest, dismayed by everything they see. I can see Skeleton Archers weaving around the field of burning woodchunks that was once my forest. A sheep wanders vacantly along the beach. And finally, the sun starts to rise.

World 10, deaths 9, part 3

I asked if anyone in the office wanted to see me die, and they all did. I didn't say I meant in Minecraft. I made my platform two blocks long, so that I can pour lava onto the block I'm not standing on and let it flow into me - that way there's no risk of it knocking me off in the wrong direction and fatally not killing me. I make sure I know exactly how to switch from lava to cake in a hurry, so I can start eating as soon as I start burning, then I'm ready.

I pour the lava out, and as soon as I hear myself say "Oof!", I switch to cake and back carefully off the ledge.

Two things go immediately wrong. I'm falling, yes, but I'm not on fire. For the first time in my life, I've managed to take damage from lava without catching light.

And I can't seem to eat the cake. I'm right clicking, which is the use button, but it's just causing me to swing the cake wildly like a club, beating it against the stone column as I rush by.

Suddenly there's a slap and the cake disappears. Did I eat it? Did I eat it in one, violent bite? I'm plummeting through the earth now, cakeless and unburning, and in a split second I hit the ground. I die with the same weak 'oof' that the lava elicited, my possesions spew out of my body, and it's game over. My score, apparently, is '&e0' - it seems appropriate.

World 10, deaths 9, part 4

Luckily, I recorded the whole thing. And it's only when I watch it frame-by-frame that I discover what really happened.

Firstly, I was so well armoured that the lava never even reduced my health, which is probably why it didn't set me alight. That lead to my inability to eat cake - I hadn't taken any damage so there was nothing to heal. That meant 'using' the cake was attempting to put it down, but against a solid wall that just causes me to slap it fruitlessly against the rock. But when I passed the Earth's surface, there was an extraordinarily brief interval when I was under my beacon, but not yet in the ground - so no rock in front of me. In that moment, I slammed the cake down on the ground and vanished into the ground forever.

It's about the most anticlimactic video you'll ever see.

Update: commenters inform me that the other reason I couldn't eat the cake is that it has to be put on the ground before it can be consumed. Personally, I prefer to pick up whole cakes and push them into my face until they're gone, but whatever Notch.

Confusingly, the cake stays in my hand a few frames after placing.

If the world continued to exist after I was gone, some passing adventurer might spot a tower of cascading water tumbling into a secluded bay. If he poked his head through the veil, he'd discover a beautifully made cake inside lying on a pedestal, directly in front of an unfathomably deep hole with a hideously twisted corpse at the bottom of it. I doubt he'd ever figure out the full stupidity of what happened, but the thought is as good a reason as any to delete it.

Worlds: 10
Deaths: 10
Conclusion:
Cake is difficult.

If you're interested in how far I came, here's a map of the journey home - click for the big version. The game only generates terrain around where you are, so the black areas are where I never explored.

You can see the point at which my compass started pointing in a different direction - I guess it just gets more accurate once you're in roughly the right area. My journey through hell was shorter and more straight forward:

To give you an idea of the scale, here are the two together - I started in the top right, went to hell, travelled as far as I could, then came back and had to walk eight times further home.

Huge thanks to everyone for reading, your comments and Likes have made this a pleasure to write. If you enjoyed it, tell people - this sort of article takes some time to do, but we can justify doing more of them if the people who like it spread the link around. In the meantime, there's a similar diary I once did for strategy game Galactic Civilizations 2 up on CVG.

Minecraft is currently €14.95 directly from the developer at Minecraft.net - that's about £12.60 or US $20.25, and there's a limited free version you can play there now. It is, as I've tried to demonstrate, awesome. If this diary persuaded you to buy it, let us know in the comments.